Novartis actively participates in the development of infrastructure solutions that aim to increase the efficiency of the system as well as informed decision-making based on quality data. We also believe that this is the future path of health and other segments of society.
The pharmaceutical company Novartis is at the top of the world rankings when it comes to research and development of innovative therapies, with more than 200 clinical development projects underway. In our country, Novartis has been operating for more than 20 years. In an interview for InFocus America, Filip Žorić, Head of Oncology Business Franchise in Novartis Serbia, spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the business, as well as how the company responded to the challenges and how it sees the future.
What challenges did Novartis face and how did it respond to the situation?
In order to support the efforts of the Government of the Republic of Serbia in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Novartis, together with its Sandoz division, donated 5.4 million dinars to support the health care system in providing medical equipment, including protective masks, COVID-19 tests, ventilators and other medical equipment necessary for the protection of health workers and the treatment of the population.
Together with other pharmaceutical companies, Novartis’ employees responded to the invitation to volunteer following the AmCham initiative, which is being implemented in cooperation with the Republic of Serbia Crisis Unit for the Suppression of the COVID-19 Infectious Disease. The goal of volunteering is to make professional literature in the field of epidemiology, virology and public health available to the professionals from the Crisis Unit s much as possible and in the shortest possible time.
Furthermore, at the request of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Sandoz, the generic division of Novartis, donated the required amounts of hydroxychloroquine to the Dr Milan Jovanović Batut Institute of Public Health, which will be distributed to other health institutions in the country.
“Novartis is evaluating its existing products to determine if any of them could be reassigned beyond their approved indication and has launched a series of clinical trials to that effect”
Also, in response to an urgent call for research and development of pharmaceuticals in the fight against the coronavirus, from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), Novartis expressed its readiness to contribute to this significant effort by making available a series of compounds developed in its laboratories which are suitable for in-vitro antiviral testing. Besides, Novartis is evaluating its existing products to determine if any of them could be reassigned beyond their approved indication and has launched a series of clinical trials to that effect.
The cancer mortality rate in Serbia is still higher than in other European countries. At the same time, the European Commission has launched initiatives such as the Europe Beating Cancer Plan and the Initiative on Breast Cancer. Why is even the European Commission now focusing on oncology?
Cancer is the most common cause of premature death in the population aged 15 to 59, i.e. in the working-age population, and thus represents a great burden on the economy. If we know that the population in Serbia, as well as in the whole of Europe, is getting older, it is even more important to sustain people who can still contribute to the society and the economy. Unlike some other diseases, in which primary and secondary prevention measures significantly reduce the incidence of the disease, when it comes to cancer, no matter how much we reduce the risk, about 60% of cancers will still occur. Therefore, countries are trying to reduce mortality by combining screening programmes, i.e. early diagnosis, but also through available innovative therapies, especially when it comes to the most common cancers (breast and lung cancer).
I can see that even in our country this difficult situation has contributed to better recognize the importance of investing in health care. Digital solutions are a very important aspect of improving the system and Serbia has a good basis for it. We have seen how much electronic prescriptions have contributed to the availability of therapies to patients who take their regular therapies in pharmacies. As a member of the Digital Serbia Initiative, Novartis actively participates in the development of infrastructure solutions that aim to increase system efficiency as well as informed decision-making based on quality data, and we believe that this is the future path of health and other segments of society.